Don’t Let Your Closet Sabotage Your Body Image

Bodies are meant to change. If we start treating our bodies like they should fit specific sizes, that one size is our blanket "ideal," we'll never be truly accepting of ourselves.

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Several years ago, I experienced a significant weight loss. As great as that sounds, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses — or wholly intentional. The pounds fell off as a result of eating issues surrounding a severe gastrointestinal illness. I could barely stand to look at food. (Fun, right?)

I won’t go into too many details, but during this stage of my life, I’d never seen a lower number on the scale — a number that held for about two and a half years. Like you’d expect, my old size-10 clothes didn’t fit anymore. I was suddenly wearing 0s and 2s.

However, my thinnest frame was never built to last. At 5’8″ with natural curves and an athletic body type, when I recovered and learned to eat normally again, most of the weight went back on. My reinvented curves took some getting used to; I finally learned to start embracing the modern boobs and booty that are oh-so-popular today. However, I needed to make external changes to help support the internal ones.

The transition back to a healthy size 6 or 8 was far more gradual than the initial drop had been, though. Filtering through my closet during my transitional months was a lesson in psychological warfare. I was constantly trying on (and taking off), tons and tons of clothes that didn’t fit — or even if it technically fit, it didn’t look right anymore. So as the months passed, I didn’t even realize that the contents of my closet were bothering me. Each and every morning.

Shift dresses no longer looked chic, but bunchy. Boatneck tops seemed to amplify my chest in an unflattering manner. Low-cut pants didn’t hit me correctly, just made me tug at the waistband. Every day, a chorus of “ugh, no” rang out of my mouth as mounds of clothes hit the floor that I couldn’t wear.

This went on for months, for a couple reasons:

Attachment. I have a deep love of style, and clothes are the building blocks. So as I gained weight, I struggled with seeing certain fashions and items bite the dust in my look. If I loved a dress or pair of pants, I was reluctant to let the item go — even if I knew it didn’t fit me anymore and was just taking up closet space without usefulness. I’m a little sentimental about clothes. (And you very well might be, too, I’m sure.)

Delusion. As an offshoot of attachment, there’s delusion. I think every woman has a piece in the back of her closet — that dress she wore for NYE ’09, those high-school jeans — that she thinks she could wear at some point in the future, perhaps. I mean, maybe you’ll be that size again. But while you might call the size-4 dress “aspirational,” I’ll call it self-sabotaging.

Here’s the flaw in that logic, the flaw in keeping clothes around that do not fit: Bodies are meant to change. If we start treating our bodies like they should fit specific sizes, that one size is our blanket “ideal,” we’ll never be truly accepting of ourselves.

We are children, and then someday we have children. We pour our energy into our fitness, and then into our jobs. We put on “happy weight” in a new relationship, and then we take it off in a season of stress. It happens to everyone. This is all natural, normal, even healthy. You don’t want to beat yourself up about every pound or calorie. Because bodies change all the time. As a woman, especially, I had to really embrace that truth. Once I did, I was ready to create an environment of change as acceptable — not hold onto my need to control and resist.

Once I changed my mindset, I asked myself if anything was holding me back from total acceptance of my newer, healthy frame. First and foremost, I thought of my closet — and I immediately got rid of everything that did not fit me, whether it was a great Michael Kors dress or an old pair of Hanes boxer shorts that I used to sleep in. And from there, I began building my closet slowly, from near-scratch.

I bought clothes that hugged my curves well, in the appropriate places (and sizes). I chose fitted styles over shifts. I chose high-waisted pants and mid-rises over low-rises. I embraced V-necks instead of boatnecks. I got amazing undergarments that made me feel good about my body, each layer of it.

Slowly but surely, my mornings were smoother. I spent a lot less time tossing clothes on the floor. I chose one outfit that fit me well, that I felt confident in, that I loved again. Not a size 2, perhaps, but a size Me. At that very moment. In this very stage of my life.

You probably have too many clothes in your closet that don’t fit just right, too. Let me suggest a cleanse. Take a day. Take a weekend. Go through every item. Try on questionable garments, toss out everything that you don’t feel amazing in. I promise that walking into your closet and picking among options that all fit like a glove will change your day-to-day life.

One of the first things you do every single morning is get dressed. If you have to try on two or three pieces that don’t fit quite right to find one that does, it’ll affect your mood for the rest of the day. It’s a psychological trap that I don’t want you to fall into — because, for months, I did.

Aim for healthy, always, and then comfort. But you are beautiful at the size you are today. If that size or shape changes later on, great. That is normal and natural. But today, set yourself up to be as happy as you can in your own skin. See if the secret might not lie in a quick closet makeover — and once you’ve streamlined and pared down, treat yourself to a new dress or pair of pants (with the perfect fit) to start the final phase of your wardrobe renovation.

Lookin’ good, feelin’ good — and a little shopping. Not a bad prescription, right?

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